Last Saturday was the big Army ball for the troops stationed in Stuttgart.  It was my first Army ball in almost 20 years.  I’d forgotten how much effort it takes to go dancing for a couple of hours.

For the last several months we’ve been walking, for our health, for the beautiful scenery in the Black Forest, and to look good in our ball clothes.  About a month ago we ordered all the clothes we’d need.  After 20 years, I needed a new ball gown, Dave had new dress blues but he needed a formal shirt and bow tie.  The last two weeks I had to find shoes and earrings (shhhhh, and undergarments).  Last week, finally, I had hair appointments, dress fittings, and a nail appointment.

Unfortunately my dress fittings were canceled and I spent Saturday morning, with Dave’s help, fitting my dress and shortening it myself.  We almost missed the ball itself! But we didn’t miss it, we were perhaps a little late, walking in right as the toasts were kicking off.  I’d forgotten about the toasts.  It’s a little like Catholic mass were various church members call out their prayers; and we all say:

“Lord, hear our prayer.”  Except, with the toasts, we all raise our glasses and take a drink.  More like frat boys at a party.  And, like frat boys, we all chimed in and sung the Army song. I rather love hearing the deep voices band together. I’d been dreading the speeches, but they were thoughtful, clear and even enjoyable.  And, as always, there was an empty table and chair:

The empty chair – for those who are not here The table in the place of honor – to show our appreciation for their service
The untouched drink – for the pleasures they cannot share
The black tablecloth – for the dark fate that has befallen them
The single rose – for our love the spilled
shaker of salt – for our tears.

And the traditional toast – drunk with water to represent sorrow and remembrance:
“To Absent Comrades.”

That part never gets easy, yet I am so thankful that our fallen soldiers are never forgotten and always a part of their brothers left behind.

I was grateful when it was finally time to sit and enjoy our meal. By then, with all the wine sipped during the toasts, I needed a little food in my stomach to balance the spinning in my head.  After dinner, with the band already playing, we stepped outside for some quick photo’s of us in our finery, before the dancing really washed away the finishing touches.  And that’s when I realized I wouldn’t be dancing.  I had done a great job in the months leading up to the ball.  I’d remembered everything; hair, nails, shoes, shorten the dress… what I hadn’t planned on was take-in the dress.  The last couple of walks had done enough good that my dress was not as snug as it should have been.  My beautiful, strapless, dress was determined to not stay in place.